Dubai: Beware as some websites offering fake degrees are now offering ‘scholarships’ in an attempt to lure UAE residents wishing to earn ‘accredited’ degrees at a low fee.
Earlier this year, a Gulf News report warned residents against websites that offer degrees for as low as $199 (Dh731) without the need to attend classes or face examinations. Instead, the websites claim to give you an ‘accredited’ degree based on life and work experience.
The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has also time and time again warned against unaccredited online programmes. It even issued a list that is available on its website with the only 105 accredited foreign online universities that are recognised by the UAE.
However, despite the authority’s warnings, these websites are succeeding in luring UAE citizens by finding new and innovative ways to target them.
This includes using social media advertisements carrying pictures of famous UAE figures and, more recently, sending emails to residents claiming that they have been chosen for a scholarship. More residents fall prey to such quick education solutions for better job prospects.
Upon checking with educational authorities in the country it was found that there weren’t such scholarships funded by the UAE. It was also found that www.uaeeducationboard.com is a just over two-month-old website that is based in the US. A scam scan through online portals categorised the website as unsafe. People who register on this website are then called by fake online universities called diploma mills. It is believed that there are more than 350 such websites that are operating this one billion dollar scam.
“I used to see ads everywhere on Facebook by these websites. If that wasn’t bad enough, they are now sending me emails claiming that I was chosen for a scholarship. I obviously know that these are not credible because how can you earn an accredited degree so easily,” said Ahmad Ali, a Dubai resident.
Ali said he received an email by the secretariat of the GCC Education Board (a quick search online found that such a board does not exist) and founder of the UAE Education Board (not a real government board and it is the name of the website offering the ‘scholarships’) claiming that he was selected for a scholarship.
The email read: “This is Moustafa Al Jadouni (Secretariat - GCC Education Board & Founder of UAE Education Board), informing you about your selection for the International Honors Degree Programme 2014 …. Your selection for this scholarship has been finalised after a detailed evaluation of your profile we received earlier.”
The email then said the degree will be shipped to Ali once he shows interest in the degree.
Gulf News tried to contact Al Jadouni through the email mentioned in the message but he failed to answer. Gulf News also tried to reach him through social media and by contacting educational authorities but found no trace of him online and no one knew who he was.
Posing as a student, Gulf News followed the steps in the email and registered for the ‘scholarship’. The next day a person named Justin Grey replied claiming that he was calling from the US. He claimed to be from Walesbridge University in California, an online university.
When asked details of the scholarship, he said that the scholarship was a US-UAE scholarship and that the UAE government will fund it. He then refused to reveal any details and asked to visit the university’s website to start a live chat.
After 10 minutes he said the information was viewed and the request for scholarship was accepted. He said this could be “a 25 per cent fee discount, 50 per cent fee discount and a 75 per cent fee discount with different payment plans”, for a Prior Learning Assessment programme, which means the degree will be earned based on former experience and shipped after a few weeks.
“Can you register by paying $199 (Dh730.95) now so that I can get a presidential scholarship for you and also you can start your studies by today?” he said.
When other questions were asked, he kept on pushing the registration payment, saying: “See if you can register now, I can provide you 90 per cent off from the total fee.”
Grey provided links to prove the website is credible. One of them showed a sample of the graduation degree, a second showed papers attested by UAE and carried UAE stamps and stickers and a third link sent one to a website called www.worldacademicranking.com which showed that Walesbridge university is the third best online university.
Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village, said earlier: “We are working with regulators, including the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), to investigate each false website to remove any claims being made about DIAC, or any of our universities.”
Mohammad Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Permit Commission of KHDA, made a statement earlier about this issue saying: “We advise all students to check if their university is permitted by KHDA before enrolling in a course in Dubai. All information is available through our website and smart applications. If a student is still unsure, they can contact KHDA directly with queries.”